war on the Middle Class
Between 1989 and 2010, the top 1 percent of the population went from holding 30.1 percent of the wealth to 34.5 percent, while the bottom 50 percent went from having 3 percent of the wealth to having just 1.1 percent. That’s right: In 2010, 50 percent of Americans had 1.1 percent of the total net worth (PDF), according to the Congressional Research Service. The share of wealth held by the next 40 percent of people, up to the 90th percentile, had also dropped, from 29.9 percent to 24.3 percent. Put another way (and it’s stunning however you look at it), 10 percent of people have 74.5 percent of the wealth.
The median and mean household net worth dropped considerably between 2007 and 2010, but even as both dropped, inequality increased, with the median—the amount of wealth that half of people have more than and half of people have less than—dropping by 38.8 percent, while the mean—the amount you get when you add up all the wealth and divide it by the number of people—lost just 14.4 percent. That means that the amount everyone would have if wealth were distributed equally went from being 4.6 times the amount the person actually in the middle has to being 6.5 times that number.So: Prior to the financial crisis and the recession, there was massive inequality in America. Following the financial crisis and the recession, there is a Grand Canyon of inequality in America. For good reason, we talk a lot about how much of the wealth the top 1 percent have. We talk less about how little the bottom 50 percent have, but think about what it means that 50 percent of people have just over 1 percent of the money. Forget all the definitions you’ve heard of who is in the underclass. We’re on track to have “underclass” and “majority” be synonyms. And the Republicans have got a guy running for president who wants to speed the process.
No question that the Republican candidate wants to speed the process. The same thing applies to the Democratic candidate though.
Paul Jay says until police and their political masters are held responsible under the criminal code, it can all happen again:
from the transcript:
It’s been two years since the Toronto G-20, two years since more than 1,000 people were arrested, hundreds of them brutally clubbed and violently assaulted by police. There’s been a series of reports looking into the police activities. First the Ontario Ombudsman issued a report. Then there was a civilian report looking into the activities of the RCMP, then the Ontario Independent Police Review Director, and now the Independent Civilian Review into matters relating to the G-20 summit—that’s the report issued by the civilian oversight board responsible for the Toronto Police.
Now that all the reviews and reports are in, the question remains: have people responsible been held accountable? And can it all happen again?
But before we dig into all of that, let’s remind ourselves what the G-20 was all about. Let’s take one more look at the big picture.
The 2010 G-20 in Toronto was a declaration by the global governing elite that the economic crisis, largely triggered by banks and financial institutions, would be paid for by ordinary people everywhere. It was also a declaration that force and the violation of basic civil rights would be used against those who protest and resist bearing the consequences of a crisis they didn’t cause. The more than 1,000 arrests at the Toronto G-20 was a statement by the governments of Canada, Ontario, and Toronto that mass protest would be met by mass arrests.
As I pointed out in a previous report, the missing words in the G-20 declaration were higher taxes on the wealthy and higher wages for workers—both obvious solutions to the stated goal of fighting deficits and dealing with a serious lack of demand in the economy.
What the G-20 leaders did agree to was this: “[The] advanced economies have committed to fiscal plans that will at least halve deficits by 2013 and stabilize or reduce government debt-to-GDP ratios by 2016″—we know that means cuts to pensions/social services and other austerity measures. We see this plan being played out across Europe and North America and other countries. The arrests at the G-20 were made in defense of this global strategy.
And now reports from the Ontario Independent Police Review Director and the Ontario Ombudsman have made it clear: the police services responsible during the G-20 violated citizens’ right to free assembly and used excessive force in doing so.
There’s no evidence that a low capital gains tax rate boosts the stock market, investment, or the economy [New]
There is no sound evidence that cutting capital gains taxes to levels far below ordinary income tax rates contributes to economic growth at all — let alone enough to outweigh the significant economic cost of doing so.
- - Federal Reserve economists concluded in 2005 that the 2003 capital gains and dividend tax cut had little effect on the stock market: European and U.S. stocks performed similarly both after the announcement of the tax cut and after the tax cut itself, as this chart shows. As the Wall Street Journal stated, the study “concludes that the tax cut … was a dud when it came to boosting the stock market.”
- - “[T]here is no evidence that links aggregate economic performance to capital gains tax rates,” according to University of Michigan tax economist Joel Slemrod.
- - There is no statistically significant correlation between the top capital gains rate and economic growth (see chart).
- - As Len Burman, Syracuse University tax professor and former director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center (TPC), has explained of this chart, “Many other things have changed at the same time as [capital] gains rates and many other factors affect economic growth. But the graph should dispel the silver bullet theory of capital gains taxes. Cutting capital gains taxes will not turbocharge the economy and raising them would not usher in a depression.”
- - There is also no statistically significant correlation between the capital gains rate and the amount of real business investment.
Check out the other 9 things you need to know too.
Do you see ‘Tax Cuts’ there? No? Me neither. How about ‘Tax Code Loopholes’? No? No. Apparently spending less on ‘Tax Cuts’ or closing tax code loopholes is not an option. Conservative hegemony at work as Paul would say.
Krugman wipes the floor with the two pro-austerity guests:
And the segment where Krugman detailed his view of the current situation to the BBC host:
UPDATE: There was another segment with Paul Krugman and an ex finance minister of Greece. It’s at the 6 minute mark:
And here’s the entire BBC program:
Transcript at the link:
BILL BLACK: Well, there were a series of articles in The New York Times covering the recent elections in Europe, particularly in France and Greece, but also mentioning Germany and England. And the common denominator in each of these elections was that the people rose up against the parties imposing Berlin’s austerity program, which has forced Europe back into recession and forced the periphery of Europe back into depression. And they rejected this soundly in these votes.
But the amazing thing was that The New York Times reporters were treating this like, well, these people must be financially illiterate, because everybody knows austerity is the only thing that can be done, and austerity must be done, and it’s good and such. So the more they destroy the economy, the more the New York Times reporters seem to think that destroying the economy is the objective.
And Paul Krugman has been very good. He is, after all, Nobel laureate in economics. He writes a regular column for The New York Times, and for months he’s been explaining how insane the austerity program is. But apparently the New York Times reporters don’t read their own Nobel prize winning economists.
PS. There is an update to the previous post as well.
There is a transcript at the link
In 2010, as the nation slowly ground its way from Great Recession to recovery, 93 percent of national income gains went to the richest 1 percent of Americans. As Reuters’s David Cay Johnston pointed out today, this makes the 2010 recovery quite different from the recovery that followed the Great Depression, as then, income gains were widely shared by the population, not concentrated at the very top:
The 1934 economic rebound was widely shared, with strong income gains for the vast majority, the bottom 90 percent.
In 2010, we saw the opposite as the vast majority lost ground.
National income gained overall in 2010, but all of the gains were among the top 10 percent. Even within those 15.6 million households, the gains were extraordinarily concentrated among the super-rich, the top one percent of the top one percent.
Just 15,600 super-rich households pocketed an astonishing 37 percent of the entire national gain.
During the recovery, corporate profits have also roared back, already hitting their pre-recession heights. Wages, however, have not done the same.
Not only was the recovery of the bottom 90% nowhere near the recovery of the top 0.1%, but the bottom 90% went backward.
A while ago David recommended Bernand Harcourt’s ‘T
he Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order.’ I started reading it a while ago. The ‘Chicago School’ chapter was interesting. Luckily I found a PDF copy of a draft of that chapter. Here’s an excerpt where Harcourt talks about how ‘efficiency’ is defined by laissez-faire economists (from page 24 of the pdf, page 168 of the draft, emphasis is mine):
The Efficiency of the Competitive Market
Ultimately, in the law-and-economics tradition, the Physiocratic belief in natural order metamorphoses into a faith in the efficiency of the competitive market. The earlier, more nebulous concept of an economic system is refined into the “competitive” market. To unpack this claim, a few observations are necessary. First, it is crucial to properly understand how the contemporary use of the term “efficiency” gets refined and improved—and in the process becomes so much more persuasive. As a result of the work of economists such as Vilfredo Pareto, Nicholas Kaldor, and John Hicks, the field of welfare analysis developed a far more workable definition of efficiency. At an earlier time, the concept of welfare maximization aggregated individual welfare without always paying attention to particular individuals whose welfare might decline. This was true, to a certain extent, of Bentham himself. In his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, where he clearly defined all his terms, Bentham wrote that “An action then may be said to be conformable to the principle of utility, or, for shortness sake, to utility, meaning with respect to the community at large) when the tendency it has to augment the happiness of the community is greater than any it has to diminish it.”658 The interest of the community, on this formulation, represents the sum of the interests of the individuals, but increasing the total utility of the community does not preclude the fact that some individuals may end up worse off. The utility principle, which Bentham would alternatively discuss under the rubric of “the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” might still allow for decreased utility of some individuals, even perhaps as few as one.659
This collective notion of welfare would give way, in the twentieth century, to more refined definitions of “efficiency.” The first, associated with Pareto, provides that an improvement in collective welfare requires that absolutely no one be make worse off individually. In other words, a Pareto improvement is possible if some people are made better off, but none worse off. This gives rise to the notion of a Pareto efficient (or Pareto optimal) outcome, which is one in which no further Pareto improvements can be made. It also gives rise to another definition of efficiency, the Kaldor-Hicks efficient outcome, where persons who would be made better off by a Pareto improvement could hypothetically compensate those who are made worse off, so that a Pareto efficient result would have obtained at least in theory. These crisper definitions of efficiency now substitute for the looser notion of welfare maximization.660
Once the Pareto and Kaldor-Hicks refinements are in place, it becomes far easier to argue that “efficient” outcomes are in fact neutral, objective, or non-normative, since no one should be opposed to a Pareto improvement in the distribution of resources (unless, of course, equity matters). Some view these Pareto and Kaldor-Hicks refinements as “a much weaker form of utilitarianism,” since they narrow the category of welfare improvements and eviscerate the possibility of collective welfare debates.661 Some argue that they render the entire economic analysis trivial and marginal, something everyone could agree about and that therefore functions only at the margins.662 I think otherwise. Making the term “efficiency” so much less controversial has in fact empowered the welfarist argument, at least in the legal domain. This is especially true since, as Coase admitted, it is generally impossible to imagine assembling the empirical data to support any of these complex welfare calculations. Being able to claim that a legal rule or allocation of resources is Pareto efficient is far more persuasive than to say that it maximizes collective welfare. It facilitates a myth of neutrality. It allows the law-and-economists to argue, as Posner does, that efficiency “offers a neutral standpoint on politically controversial legal topics.”663 In most legal controversies, we are told, lawyers tend to favor either the propertied or the propertyless. “The economist favors neither side, only efficiency.”664 Clearly, the term “efficient” now has a more crisp definition and does a lot more work. …
With a definition of ‘efficiency’ an income growth pattern like this:
would be characterized as efficient! So, be careful when the word ‘efficiency’ is thrown around.
And a second excerpt from the ‘Chicago School’ chapter where Harcourt talks about how criminal sanction is seen by laissez-faire economists (page 32 of the pdf, page 176 of the draft, emphasis is mine):
The Birth of Neoliberal Penality
The function of the criminal sanction in a capitalist market economy, then, is to prevent individuals from bypassing the inherently efficient competitive market because market bypassing—non-voluntary, non-compensated forms of social interaction—are by their very nature inefficient and reduce social welfare. Criminal activity is best understood as an end-run around the market, and the criminal law is therefore best understood as what prevents this kind of market evasion. The central premise of this argument, naturally, is the efficiency of markets: “When transaction costs are low,” Posner emphasizes, “the market is, virtually by definition, the most efficient method of allocating resources.”680 This maps on perfectly, as well, to Richard Epstein’s conception of the penal sphere. The role of the penal sanction, on Epstein’s view, is to prevent fraud and coercion, in order to facilitate the proper functioning of the free market. Notice the underlying notion of orderliness and the strong parallel to Quesnay’s ordre naturel.
This view of the penal sanction has a number of important features that are worth emphasizing. First, …
Fourth, there is a clear wealth dimension to these distinctions. The criminal sanction—rather than tort law—is necessary in the case of murder, violent crime, theft, property crimes, and generally street crime because the value at which the deterrence would have to be placed is too high and the defendants are most often judgment proof (Epstein and Posner agree on this). Both for reasons of insolvency and because of the high costs that would be necessary to deter street crime, the tort system is inadequate and the government must intervene. Posner explains: “In cases where tort remedies, including punitive damages, are an adequate deterrent because they do not strain the potential defendant’s ability to pay, there is no need to invoke criminal penalties—penalties which … are costlier than civil penalties even when just a fine is imposed. In such cases, the misconduct probably will be deterred…. This means that the criminal law is designed primarily for the nonaffluent; the affluent are kept in line, for the most part, by tort law.”682
“This means that the criminal law is designed primarily for the nonaffluent.” Isn’t this how the law is applied towards the thieves at Wall Street?
There was a brief debate focused on the following question: would the gains of the economy continue to accrue to the top 1% once the recovery started, or would the top 1% have a weak post-recession showing in terms of raw income growth as well as income share of the economy? The top 1% had a rough Great Recession. They absorbed 50% of the income losses, and their share of income dropped from 23.5% to 18.1% percent. Is this a new state of affairs, or would the 1% bounce back in 2010?
Well we finally have the estimated data for 2010 by income percentile, and it turns out that the top 1% had a fantastic year. The data is in the World Top Income Database, as well as Emmanuel Saez’s updated Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States (as well as the excel spreadsheet on his webpage). Timothy Noah has a first set of responses here. The takeaway quote from Saez should be: “The top 1% captured 93% of the income gains in the first year of recovery.”
… As you can image, this has increased the percentage of the economic pie that the top 1% takes home. As Saez notes, “excluding realized capital gains, the top decile share in 2010 is equal to 46.3%, higher than in 2007.”
… It’s also worth mentioning that, pre-Recession, inequality hadn’t been that high since the Great Depression, and we are looking to rapidly return to that state. It’s important to remember that a series of choices were made during the New Deal to react to runaway inequality, including changes to progressive taxation, financial regulation, monetary policy, labor unionization, and the provisioning of public goods and guaranteed social insurance. A battle will be fought over the next decade – it’s been fought for the past three years – on all these fronts. The subsequent resolution will determine how broadly-shared prosperity is going forward and whether or economy will continue to be as unstable as it has been.
The low taxing of capital gains plays a huge part in this. The special treatment it is given should’ve stopped. But, as Meteor Blades says, the 1% thinks taking the 93% of the recovery is the way things should be.
See Sue Run (or deficit polling and taxing workers to fund programs for people who could get by without help) [New]
The National Journal polled Americans on questions surrounding the federal budget deficit (linked from Jon Walker). Did Americans blame the safety-net programs for the deficit in the federal budget?
As important, the survey found Americans unconvinced that safety-net programs represent a major source of the deficit problem. When asked to identify the biggest reason the federal government faces large deficits for the coming years, just 3 percent of those surveyed said it was because of “too much government spending on programs for the elderly”; only 14 percent said the principal reason was “too much government spending on programs for poor people.” Those explanations were dwarfed by the 24 percent who attributed the deficits primarily to excessive defense spending, and the 46 percent plurality who said their principal cause was that “wealthy Americans don’t pay enough in taxes.” While minorities were more likely than whites to pin the blame on the wealthy avoiding taxes, even 43 percent of whites agreed.
Given that diagnosis, it is perhaps not surprising that relatively few respondents said they would support major reductions in safety-net programs to reduce the deficit. Fully three-fourths of those polled said Social Security should be cut “not at all” to reduce the deficit, and exactly four-fifths said the same about Medicare. Nearly two-thirds even agreed that Medicaid should be entirely spared from cuts; just 5 percent said it should be cut a lot. There was more receptivity to retrenching food stamps and housing vouchers for the poor (only 51 percent said they should be entirely spared), but even so, just 9 percent said they should be cut “a lot.” Twice as many said defense should face big cuts.
And the accompanying graphic:
The 53% who think “the government taxes workers too much to fund programs for people who could get by without help” left me wondering who exactly are those “people who could get by without help.” Because Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Banks and so on certainly don’t need any government help. Another portion will define “people who could get by without help” as those that receive help from safety net programs. Probably many of those exclude themselves from those who get government help that they don’t need. B. Deutsch at ‘Alas! a Blog’ (linked by Meteor Blades), used data from Suzanne Mettler’s “Reconstituting the Submerged State: The Challenge of Social Policy Reform in the Obama Era” that was published in Perspectives on Politics on September 2010 (pdf) and built a revealing table showing how little many people know about the government programs that they receive a boost from:
Percentage of Program Beneficiaries Who Report They “Have Not Used a Government Social Program” Program “No, Have Not Used a Government Social Program” 529 or Coverdell 64.3 Home Mortgage Interest Deduction 60.0 Hope or Lifetime Learning Tax Credit 59.6 Student Loans 53.3 Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit 51.7 Earned Income Tax Credit 47.1 Social Security—Retirement & Survivors 44.1 Pell Grants 43.1 Unemployment Insurance 43.0 Veterans Benefits (other than G.I. Bill) 41.7 G.I. Bill 40.3 Medicare 39.8 Head Start 37.2 Social Security Disability 28.7 Supplemental Security Income 28.2 Medicaid 27.8 Welfare/Public Assistance 27.4 Government Subsidized Housing 27.4 Food Stamps 25.4
Deutch based a cartoon on the data he gathered:
[The federal income tax] it’s not as progressive as it used to be, back before top marginal rates were lowered and capital gains taxes were slashed in half. But conservatives are a little less excited to talk about other kinds of taxes. Payroll taxes aren’t progressive, for example. In fact, they’re actively regressive, with the poor and middle classes paying higher rates than the rich.
And then there are state taxes. Those include state income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and fees of various kinds. How progressive are state taxes?
Answer: They aren’t. The Corporation for Enterprise Development recently released a scorecard for all 50 states, and it has boatloads of useful information. That includes overall tax rates, where data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that in the median state (Mississippi, as it turns out) the poorest 20 percent pay twice the tax rate of the top 1 percent. In the worst states, the poorest 20 percent pay five to six times the rate of the richest 1 percent. Lucky duckies indeed. There’s not one single state with a tax system that’s progressive. Check the table below to see how your state scores.
I mentioned earlier in the week how the public option fight changed the progressive movement. You had a popular, compromise measure that the public supported, where advocates did everything right, getting their pledges and using allies to make demands, and none of it mattered. It bred cynicism for future fights.
Underneath all that was a belief that the public option’s fate represented a sellout, that forces inside Washington cut a deal, whether with the hospital industry or the insurance industry or whoever, to get rid of the public option at the last minute. Tom Daschle confirmed this in a book all the way back in 2010, which he then had to walk back. And other reports have made similar claims, though nobody could nail it down.
Now, Richard Kirsch, who was the head for Health Care for America Now, the labor-backed coalition trying to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010, admitted that the public option was traded away in the midst of the fight.
The book is Fighting For Our Health, by Richard Kirsch, who directed the advocacy group Health Care for America Now during the push for reform. HCAN is a well financed umbrella group backed by scores of liberal groups, unions, and other reformers — making Kirsch a close witness to the entire saga. He confirms that the White House treated the public option like a bargaining chip with powerful industry players, and believes that when his group became most critical of the bill mid-way through the fight, that top White House aides sought to have him canned.
“The White House had negotiated a number of deals with the health industry, designed to win their support for reform, including agreeing to oppose a robust public option, which would have the greatest clout to control how much providers got paid,” writes Kirsch, largely confirming what has become an open secret in Washington.
I think this sellout exposed Democrats and separated them from the progressive movement like nothing else has. Anyway, I like to think that…
From an Associated Press story today:
Just months after he was deployed to Iraq in 2008, a Marine veteran now suspected in the deaths of four homeless men in Southern California sent his family a short, upbeat video greeting.
The video, which was mostly in Spanish, showed Itzcoatl Ocampo wishing his father a happy Father’s Day and reading an excerpt from Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” to his then 10-year-old sister.
The former Marine’s 17-year-old brother, Mixcoatl Ocampo, recalled how happy his family members were when they got the video in the mail that summer. They all gathered around the television in the living room to watch Itzcoatl Ocampo, who appeared in fatigues and talked against the backdrop of an American flag.
“We hadn’t seen my brother since he got deployed,” he said. “Dad saw the video, and when he first saw it he was thrilled.”
According to friends and family, a much darker Ocampo returned home after he was discharged in 2010. His parents separated, and his father eventually became homeless.
Now, Ocampo’s family is left trying to reconcile the smiling, slightly nervous-sounding soldier in the video greeting friends and family with the blankly staring man in the police mug shot accused of murder.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. Tuesday to announce charges against Itzcoatl Ocampo. The 23-year-old is expected to be charged with four counts of murder in the serial killings of four homeless men since late December.
He was arrested Jan. 13 after a locally known homeless man, John Berry, 64, was stabbed to death outside an Anaheim fast-food restaurant. Bystanders gave chase, and police made the arrest. Ocampo is being held in isolation at the central jail in Santa Ana for his own safety because of the notoriety of the case, according to Lt. Hal Brotheim, a spokesman with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
And on my Facebook page today, I saw this link from a Martin Luther King speech that I’d forgotten, The Casualties of War in Vietnam:
I would like to speak to you candidly and forthrightly this afternoon about our present involvement in Vietnam. I have chosen as a subject, “The Casualties of the War in Vietnam.” We are all aware of the nightmarish physical casualties. We see them in our living rooms in all of their tragic dimensions on television screens, and we read about them on our subway and bus rides in daily newspaper accounts. We see the rice fields of a small Asian country being trampled at will and burned at whim. We see grief stricken mothers with crying babies clutched in their arms as they watch their little huts burst forth into flames. We see the fields and valleys of battle being painted with human blood. We see the broken bodies left prostrate in countless fields. We see young men being sent home half men, physically handicapped and mentally deranged. Most tragic of all is the casualty list among children. So many Vietnamese children have been mutilated and incinerated by napalm and by bombs. A war in which children are incinerated, in which American soldiers die in mounting numbers is a war that mutilates the conscience. These casualties are enough to cause all men to rise up with righteous indignation and oppose the very nature of this war.
But the physical casualties of the war in Vietnam are not alone catastrophes. The casualties of principles and values are equally disastrous and injurious. Indeed, they are ultimately more harmful because they are self perpetuating. If the casualties of principle are not healed, the physical casualties will continue to mount.
What Itzcoatl Ocampo did, apparently murdering four homeless men (he’s not been tried or convicted), clearly is wrong. But we as a society also bear culpability. Sending people off to war is not without predictable hazards. And those hazards extend beyond likely death and destruction of our soldiers and the civilians they encounter. The hazards also extend to those soldiers who return home.
To willfully damage people like Itzcoatl Ocampo, adding a burden to his family and community, for oil or payback in Iraq and whatever the reason was for Afghanistan, that’s profoundly immoral. It violates human decency and requires people be held accountable legally, especially in the case of Iraq which apparently was pursued with lies. To think Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush can retire, that we’ll all get over their stupidity or whatever motivated them, is to ignore people like Itzcoatl Ocampo and his (apparent) victims, the community they live in and Mr. Ocampo’s family.
The AP piece also includes these timely details, given the economic injustice in our country:
Ocampo’s father, 49-year-old Refugio Ocampo, said his son came back a changed man after serving in Iraq, expressing disillusionment and becoming ever darker as his family life frayed and he struggled to find his way as a civilian.
The father said he lost his job and home, and ended up living under a bridge before finding shelter in the cab of a broken-down big-rig he is helping repair.
Just days before his elder son’s arrest, Itzcoatl Ocampo came to visit his father, warning him of the danger of being on the streets and showing him a picture of one of the victims.
“He was very worried about me,” Refugio Ocampo told The Associated Press on Sunday. “I told him, ‘Don’t worry. I’m a survivor. Nothing will happen to me.’”
And this bit, which every person who hates illegals should be forced to read:
A neighbor who is a Vietnam veteran and the father both tried to push Itzcoatl to get treatment at a Veterans hospital, but he refused. Refugio Ocampo said he wanted his son to get psychological treatment as well.
“He started talking about stuff that didn’t make any sense, that the end of the world was going to happen,” he said.
While Refugio Ocampo lives away from his family, they remain close. He saw his children every day, and his wife brings food to the parking lot where the truck is located in the city of Fullerton.
Refugio Ocampo, who said he was educated as a lawyer in Mexico, immigrated with his wife and Itzcoatl in 1988 and became a U.S. citizen. He described building a successful life in which he became a warehouse manager and bought a home in Yorba Linda. In the past few years he lost his job, ran out of savings, lost his house and separated from his wife.
Standing near the truck where he sleeps, Refugio Ocampo fought back tears as he described the changes he saw in his son in the year since returning home.
Yet another American, playing by the rules, doing most everything right, loses everything and has nothing left but family. And a son who comes back from a war and apparently cannot handle what he experienced.
My son the other day asked me what this poem meant and it seems relevant in every era:
‘No Man is an Island’
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
We need more people like Dr. Martin Luther King, don’t you think? Our country would be, could be, a much better place for families like the Ocampos.